One of the best things I saw during my trip to Spain and Holland was the Centrale Discotheek Rotterdam and their website, Muziekweb.nl. The library has about 400,000 CDs, 300,000 of which are unique. They also have an equal amount of vinyl in storage and 100,000 music DVDs. The place looks like a gigantic record shop but it also has a number of nice, big iMacs on which people can search the collection and listen to samples of many, many of the discs.

IMG_7161 (by aaron schmidt)   IMG_7163 (by aaron schmidt)

Listen to song samples and download CDs? Yes. They’ve made an amazing music listening and downloading website. What makes this project great is that the library has partnered with copyright holders in the Netherlands and have been granted the rights to digitize a big portion of their 300,000 CDs (and liner notes). There’s a team of people ripping and scanning 8 hours a day!

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Right now that have about 8000 albums for download. Downloads and listening occur through library created software, and loans last for a week, then expire. Is it wrong for me to skip the usual rant about the DRM on the mp3s because it is DRM created by a library? Probably, but let’s be honest here, surely there’s no other way the copyright holders would let this project exist. Even though DRM=bad, this still seems like a step in the right direction. I *don’t* know if songs can be transfered to a portable player.

I can’t read Dutch but I was still able to navigate around the site and checked out some of the great features. I don’t know how they do their subject headings, but the related artists section in each item record seems genuinely useful and accurate. Same with the “Muziekadvies” tool through which you can get recommendations by entering in three bands you like. Try it out, I was impressed with the results. Each item record also has a spot where users can rate it, and whether or not it is available for digital checkout.
MuziekWeb - Titel informatie-2-1 (by aaron schmidt)   MuziekWeb - Titel informatie-4 (by aaron schmidt)

Other interesting tidbits about the library: It costs about $20 to join for a year and checking out a CD or DVD costs about $2. Oh, and they still print a hardcopy catalog!

IMG_7158 (by aaron schmidt)

Muziekweb.nl provides relevant content in one of the most usable library produced interfaces I’ve seen. The same can’t be said of vendor driven solutions like Overdrive. With so many other (and better in many ways) options, convenient delivery of relevant content is an important task that libraries really need to concentrate on but I don’t see it happening. Can anyone help me envision something like Muziekweb in the US? I’m afraid it takes some imagination beyond my reach!